In Dr No, when James Bond is being given the assignment to close out the case of the missing Strangways, a detail from the last case that the Station Head of Jamaica had been working on before his disappearance catches 007’s interest. The Chief of Staff had referred to it as “Only that damned business about the birds.”
The Audubon Society had been making noise in Washington, even getting the British Ambassador involved, which was how the case came to the attention of the Secret Service. Bond presses for more information. Tanner relates:
“It seems there’s a bird called a Roseate Spoonbill. There’s a coloured photograph of it in here. Looks like a sort of pink stork with an ugly flat bill which it uses for digging for food in the mud. Not many years ago these birds were dying out. Just before the war there were only a few hundred left in the world, mostly in Florida and thereabouts. Then somebody reported a colony of them on an island called Crab Key between Jamaica and Cuba. It’s British territory-a dependency of Jamaica. Used to be a guano island, but the quality of the guano was too low for the cost of digging it. When the birds were found there, it had been uninhabited for about fifty years. The Audubon people went there and ended up by leasing a corner as a sanctuary for these spoonbills.
The Chief of Staff goes on to relate that the Island of Crab Key was then bought by a certain Dr No, with the stipulation that the sanctuary not be disturbed. A few suspicious incidents resulting the deaths of the Wardens and of a couple of members of the Audubon really caused things to heat up. But Strangways had not reported back anything in his investigation prior to his disappearance.
In Dr No, James Bond has just been given the news that against his preference, he will be receiving a new weapon, the Walther PPK 7.65 mm. Bond reluctantly accepts the decision of the Armourer as to choice of weapon, and the inquires as to the best way to carry the gun.
“Berns Martin Triple-draw holster,” said Major Boothroyd succinctly. “Best worn inside the trouser band to the left. But it’s all right below the shoulder. Stiff saddle leather. Holds the gun in with a spring. Should make for a quicker draw than that,” he gestured towards the desk. “Three-fifths of a second to hit a man at twenty feet would be about right.”
The recent release of the book The Man With The Golden Typewriter is a boon for Bond researchers as it shows you directly how Fleming got much of his information. In this case a fan named Geoffrey Boothroyd. There is an entire chapter in the book entitled ‘Conversations with the Armourer’, in which the extensive correspondence between Fleming and Boothroyd is chronicled.
In his very first letter to Fleming, Boothroyd gives his opinions on the firearms Bond is said to use and what he should use. He suggests a Smith and Wesson .38 Centennial Airweight. (In a later letter he mentions the Walther PPK 7.65 mm) Then he says:
Now to gun harness, rigs or what have you. First of all, not a shoulder holster for general wear, please. I suggest that the gun is carried in a Berns Martin Triple Draw holster. This type of holster holds the gun in by means of a spring and can be worn on the belt or as a shoulder holster. I have played about with various types of holster for quite a time now and this one is the best.
Boothroyd sent Fleming a series of prints to show the various ways in which the holster could be worn.
‘A’ Series. Holster worn on belt at right side. Pistol drawn with right hand.
(Boothroyd notes: This draw can be done in 3/5ths of a second by me. With practice and lots of it you could hit in figure at 20 feet in that time.)
‘B’ Series. Shoulder holster. Gun upside down on left side. Held in by spring. Drawn with right hand.
‘C’ Series. Holster worn as in A, but gun drawn with left hand.
‘D’ Series. Holster word on shoulder, as in ‘B’ series, but gun drawn with left hand.
Boothroyd provided Fleming with 2-4 points of note under each of these series.
A later letter to Fleming has Boothroyd answering the writer’s query as to where he can find more about the holster:
The Berns Martin people live in Calhoun City, Mississippi, and a note to Jack Martin, who is a first class chap and a true gunslinger, will bring you illustrations of his work. Bond’s chamois leather pouch will be ideal for carrying a gun, but God help him if he has to get the gun out when the other fellow is counting the holes in Bond’s tummy.
Here is a closeup of the brand mark on the holster:
And then here is the entire rig:
Even after getting the information here, it was still a little inaccurate. When Fleming wrote Dr No, he had Bond issued the Berns Martin Triple Draw holster, but with the Walther PPK. Boothroyd wrote to tell him that the holster could only be used with a revolver (such as the Smith and Wesson) and not his new Walther, which was an automatic.
In Dr No, once M and Sir James Molony have ended their back and forth over the health and prospects of James Bond, M queries as to the type of poison that had nearly killed Bond.
By the way, did you ever discover what the stuff was that Russian woman put into him?”
“Got the answer yesterday.” Sir James Molony also was glad the subject had been changed. The old man was as raw as the weather. Was there any chance that he had got his message across into what he described to himself as M’s thick skull? “Taken us three months. It was a bright chap at the School of Tropical Medicine who came up with it. The drug was fugu poison. The Japanese use it for committing suicide. It comes from the sex organs of the Japanese globe-fish. Trust the Russians to use something no one’s ever heard of. They might just as well have used curare. It has much the same effect-paralysis of the central nervous system. Fugu’s scientific name is Tetrodotoxin. It’s terrible stuff and very quick. One shot of it like your man got and in a matter of seconds the motor and respiratory muscles are paralysed. At first the chap sees double and then he can’t keep his eyes open. Next he can’t swallow. His head falls and he can’t raise it. Dies of respiratory paralysis.”
“Lucky he got away with it.”
“Miracle. Thanks entirely to that Frenchman who was with him. Got your man on the floor and gave him artificial respiration as if he was drowning. Somehow kept his lungs going until the doctor came. Luckily the doctor had worked in South America. Diagnosed curare and treated him accordingly. But it was a chance in a million.”
The globe-fish, or puffer fish is a member of the species of fish of the family Tetraodontidae. These fish have the ability to inflate themselves to a globe several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened. The skin, liver and sex organs of the fish contain Tetrodotoxin.
Tetrodotoxin is said to be 10,000 times more lethal than cyanide. As Sir James mentions, the poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles and causes an increasing paralysis of the muscles of the body. Bond was saved because Rene Mathis gave him artificial respiration, and the Doctor on site thought Bond’s symptoms were similar to curare and treated as such.
Interestingly, eight years after his experience with Rosa Klebb (according to Griswold, that meeting took place on August 19th, 1954) while James Bond is on assignment in Japan for the events of You Only Live Twice where he has a dinner with Tiger Tanaka, who announces to Bond that they will be dining on Fugu fish.
‘Fugu is the Japanese blow-fish. In the water, it looks like a brown owl, but when captured it blows itself up into a ball covered with wounding spines. We sometimes dry the skins and put candles inside and use them as lanterns. But the flesh is particularly delicious. It is the staple food of the sumo wrestlers because it is supposed to be very strength-giving. The fish is also very popular with suicides and murderers because its liver and sex glands contain a poison which brings death instantaneously.’
If Bond recalls that he nearly died from Fugu poisoning, he doesn’t mention it to Tiger, and gamely goes ahead with the meal.
A very beautiful white porcelain dish as big as a bicycle wheel was brought forward with much ceremony. On it were arranged, in the pattern of a huge flower, petal upon petal of a very thinly sliced and rather transparent white fish. Bond followed Tiger’s example and set to with his chopsticks. He was proud of the fact that he had reached Black Belt standard with these instruments-the ability to eat an underdone fried egg with them.
The fish tasted of nothing, not even of fish. But it was very pleasant on the palate and Bond was effusive in his compliments because Tiger, smacking his lips over each morsel, obviously expected it of him. There followed various side-dishes containing other parts of the fish, and more sake, but this time containing raw fugu fins.
As Tiger tells Bond, every fugu restaurant has to be manned by experts and be registered with the State because of the risk of poison. Even today that remains the case.
According to Griswold, this meal took place on October 2nd, 1962. Are we to believe that Bond didn’t know what was in the spike in Rosa’s shoe, that he forgot about it, or that because of the seriousness of this assignment, he went ahead and participated in the meal?
After M quotes Dr Peter Steincrohn at Sir James Molony, the famous neurologist has the perfect comeback to the head of the British Secret Service.
This one I’ve had here is tough. I’d say you’ll get plenty more work out of him. But you know what Moran has to say about courage in that book of his.”
“He says that courage is a capital sum reduced by expenditure. I agree with him. All I’m trying to say is that this particular man seems to have been spending pretty hard since before the war. I wouldn’t say he’s overdrawn-not yet, but there are limits.”
“Just so.” M decided that was quite enough of that. Nowadays, softness was everywhere.
Sir James was quoting none other than Winston Churchill’s personal physician.
Born Charles Wilson in 1882, 1st Baron Moran was knighted in 1938 and became Churchill’s personal physician in 1940. In 1945, he wrote a groundbreaking study on the Psychological Effects of War entitled The Anatomy of Courage.
One of the passages from the book which is often quoted comes from this:
Courage is will power, whereof no man has an unlimited stock; and when in war it is used up, he is finished. A man’s courage is his capital and he is always spending. The call on the bank may be only the daily drain of the front line or it may be a sudden draft which threatens to close the account.
Another passage that Molony could’ve been referring to is this one:
Likewise in the trenches a man’s will power was his capital and he was always spending, so that wise and thrifty company officers watched the expenditure of every penny lest their men went bankrupt. When their capital was done, they were finished.
When you look at that line, Could it be that Molony was actually offering M some fairly strong criticism, noting how the “wise” officers carefully watched their men so that they weren’t “spending” too quickly?
Moran had a long life, living until 1977 when he passed away at the age of 94.
In Dr No, M is preparing to meet with James Bond following his recovery from the near-death experience he suffered at the end of From Russia With Love. He is on the phone with Sir James Molony, consulting with him as to whether 007 is fit to return to duty. While Sir James deems it wise to perhaps ease Bond back into duty, M has no intention of coddling his star agent.
M said abruptly, “Ever hear of a man called Steincrohn-Dr Peter Steincrohn?”
“No, who’s he?”
“American doctor. Written a book my Washington people sent over for our library. This man talks about how much punishment the human body can put up with. Gives a list of the bits of the body an average man can do without. Matter of fact, I copied it out for future reference. Care to hear the list?” M dug into his coat pocket and put some letters and scraps of paper on the desk in front of him. With his left hand he selected a piece of paper and unfolded it. He wasn’t put out by the silence on the other end of the line, “Hullo, Sir James! Well, here they are: ‘Gall bladder, spleen, tonsils, appendix, one of his two kidneys, one of his two lungs, two of his four or five quarts of blood, two-fifths of his liver, most of his stomach, four of his twenty-three feet of intestines and half of his brain.’ ” M paused. When the silence continued at the other end, he said, “Any comments, Sir James?”
There was a reluctant grunt at the other end of the telephone. “I wonder he didn’t add an arm and a leg, or all of them. I don’t see quite what you’re trying to prove.”
M gave a curt laugh. “I’m not trying to prove anything, Sir James. It just struck me as an interesting list. All I’m trying to say is that my man seems to have got off pretty lightly compared with that sort of punishment. But,” M relented, “don’t let’s argue about it.”
Dr Peter J. Steincrohn (1899-1986) was a real person, a real Doctor, and a prolific writer, penning almost 30 medical books aimed at the layperson, in addition to being a long-running syndicated newspaper columnist and radio and TV guest. Dr. Steincrohn received his medical degree at University of Maryland Medical School in 1923 and interned at Muhlenberg Hospital, Plainfield N.J. He did Postgraduate work at Massachusetts General and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, then established practice at Hartford, Conn, as an Internist and Cardiologist.
From this clipping, it appears that Dr Steincrohn originally penned the words M later uses in the October 1949 issue of The American Magazine.
Dr Steincrohn was considered something of a “Medical Maverick,” although espousing theories not commonly held by other physicians of his day, he was also ahead of his time in many ways, talking about issues such as heart disease and anxiety. His newspaper column was the longest running of its kind, going for over 30 years.
I had a chance to speak with Dr Steincrohn’s daughter, Maggie Davis, who remembers him as “embracing, caring, beloved,” and that he always had a “twinkle in his eye.” She noted that in her father’s private practice, he had both wealthy and poor patients, and it was important to him to make sure all of them were treated the same. It was his habit to talk to each patient for an hour before beginning any sort of examination.He ended up becoming friends with many of his patients. The Doctor didn’t merely treat his patients by rote, his daughter recalls him saying “Treat the patient, not the disease.” Among his colleagues he was known for his ability to diagnose and to ease pain. Included in his patients was the actress Gene Tierney. Dr Steincrohn was married for 50 years to Patti Chapin who was a singer for CBS Radio in the 1930’s on the Palmolive Hour. She also screen-tested for Hollywood, but chose instead to get married and raise a family.
Davis believes that Dr Steincrohn was aware of the above quote from Dr No.
Here are some of the titles of Dr Steincrohn’s books through the years:
Heart Disease is Curable 1943 Forget Your Age! 1945 How To Stop Killing Yourself 1950 How to Add Years to Your Life 1952 How To Master Your Fears 1952 How to Keep Fit without Exercise 1955 Live Longer And Enjoy It 1956 You Can Increase Your Heart Power 1958 How to Be Lazy, Healthy, and Fit 1968 Don’t Die Before Your Time 1971 How to Cure Your Jogger Mania!: Enjoy Fitness and Good Health without Running – A Doctor’s Warning on the Running Craze. 1980
From the back of one of his books:
Peter J. Steincrohn, M.D. is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association. A practicing internist and cardiologist for twenty-five years, Dr Steincrohn is a McNaught Syndicate columnist for over a hundred newspapers throughout the United States and Canada. He has written articles appearing in leaving magazines, including Esquire, Look, Saturday Evening Post and Reader’s Digest.
In Dr No, M is arriving at his office on the first day of March.
When the old black Silver Wraith rolls with the nondescript number-plate stopped outside the tall building in Regent’s Park and he climbed stiffly out on to the pavement, hail hit him in the face like a whiff of small-shot.
The Silver Wraith was manufactured between 1946 and 1958. It was the first post-war auto from Rolls-Royce. The car featured a 4,257cc overhead-inlet, straight six cylinderside-exhaust engine, and was the first Rolls-Royce to feature hydraulic brakes.
After Strangways and Mary Trueblood are killed in the opening chapter of Dr. No, their bodies are deposited in a body of water outside Kingston.
As the first flames showed in the upper windows of the bungalow, the hearse moved quietly from the sidewalk and went on its way up towards the Mona Reservoir. There, the weighted coffin would slip down into its fifty-fathom grace and, in just forty-five minutes, the personnel and records of the Caribbean station of the Secret Service would have been utterly destroyed.
The Mona Reservoir is the main water supply for Kingston, located in the neighborhood of Mona, about eight kilometers outside of Kingston.
After many years of development and several setbacks, the Mona Reservoir went into service in 1959.
Built in 1907-08, King’s House is the residence of the Governor is Jamaica. As Dr. No opens, Fleming sets the stage for us.
Richmond Road is the ‘best’ road in all Jamaica. It is Jamaica’s Park Avenue, its Kensington Palace Gardens, its Avenue D’Iena. The ‘best’ people live in its big old-fashioned houses, each in an acre or two of beautiful lawn set, too trimly, with the finest trees and flowers from the Botanical Gardens at Hope. The long, straight road is cool and quiet and withdrawn from the hot, vulgar sprawl of Kingston where its residents earn their money, and, on the other side of the T-intersection at its top, lie the grounds of King’s House, where the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Jamaica lives with his family. In Jamaica, no road could have a finer ending.
When James Bond arrives in Jamaica, he is brought to his hotel, and then the next morning to King’s House for a meeting with The Acting Governor, and then with the Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith.
At the end of the novel, Bond returns to King’s House for a mission wrap-up meeting, and is eager to leave the residence and get back to the coast.
The opening chapter of Dr. No has a disturbing scene taking place at an exclusive establishment in Kingston Jamaica, not far from King’s House.
On the eastern corner of the top intersection stands No 1 Richmond Road, a substantial two-storey house with broad white-painted verandas running round both floors. From the road a gravel path leads up to the pillared entrance through wide lawns marked out with tennis courts on which this evening, as on all evenings, the sprinklers are at work. This mansion is the social Mecca of Kingston. It is Queen’s Club, which, for fifty years, has boasted the power and frequency of its black-balls.
Such stubborn retreats will not long survive in modern Jamaica. One day Queen’s Club will have its windows smashed and perhaps be burned to the ground, but for the time being it is a useful place to find in a sub-tropical island—well run, well staffed and with the finest cuisine and cellar in the Caribbean.
Inside the club, four prominent men are playing their nightly game of high bridge. One of the men, Commander John Strangways leaves the club at 6:15, as is his routine, to run back to his office for a daily call, after which he normally returns to the club.
This time however, he will will not return.
Just before six-fifteen, the silence of Richmond Road was softly broken. Three blind beggars came round the corner of the intersection and moved slowly down the pavement towards the four cars. They were Chigroes—Chinese Negroes—bulky men, but bowed as they shuffled along, tapping at the kerb with their white sticks. They walked in file. The first man, who wore blue glasses and could presumably see better than the others, walked in front holding a tin cup against the crook of the stick in his left hand. The right hand of the second man rested on his shoulder and the right hand of the third on the shoulder of the second.
Strangways is shockingly killed, and the events are set in motion which eventually brings James Bond to the island of Jamaica.
The Colonial Secretary, Pleydell-Smith later takes Bond to lunch at Queen’s Club, where he gives Bond some more background on the case and on the people of Jamaica.
Fleming’s Queen’s Club is based on the real life Liguanea Club. which opened in 1910, and is still in business to this day.
Interestingly, in The Man With The Golden Gun, Fleming has Mary Goodnight telling Bond about her house in Kingston, and she says:
‘And James, it’s not far from the Liguanea Club and you can go there and play bridge and golf when you get better. There’ll be plenty of people for you to talk to.
Whether Fleming’s change was accidental or due to the change in government (Jamaica became Independent) he removed the Queen’s Club name, I’m not sure, but it is interesting.